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The Turnpike Era

Turnpikes were roads which charged usage fees or tolls. The name derives from the early use of revolving gates which had pikes to guard access to the road.

Turnpikes had been in use in the British Isles for many years, but did not make an appearance in America until after the War for Independence. Virginia built a state financed road, the Little River Turnpike, in 1785. Pennsylvania sanctioned a privately financed road in 1792, the Lancaster Turnpike. Private road corporations were responsible for most of the construction in the early 19th century.

One large federal venture was the National Road, running from Cumberland, Maryland to Vandalia, Illinois, which provided dependable passage through the Appalachian Mountains

The Boston Post Road, which connected Boston with New York City, was originally paved with logs and later with planks. The greatest improvement in road quality came through the efforts of John L. McAdam, a Scottish civil engineer, who developed a process for constructing weatherproof roads—the road surface became known as macadam.

2002 Online HighwaysTM